The Start-to-Finish of Creating a Content Marketing Strategy
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We probably don’t need to tell you how important content marketing is for your business. You already know that 80% of marketers make content a top priority, and that content marketing generates 3x as many leads as traditional forms, yet costs 62% less. Right?
Here at Abstract Digital, we know the reasons why you’ve probably been putting off launching a content marketing plan until now. There’s way too much competition out there! I tried blogging and nothing happened! Do you really think I have the time?!
Sound familiar? We get it. That’s why we’ve put together the only guide you need to create a content marketing strategy. From starting strong to finishing even stronger – grab a pen, make some notes and nail your brand’s organic marketing.
1. The tools & talent you’ll need to get started
Before you begin furiously tapping at your keyboard, let us emphasise the importance of using data to drive your strategy. Guesswork is fun (and tempting) but we’re not playing Snakes & Ladders here. This is your business. You need a strategy. So you could say we’re playing chess.
Luckily, there are plenty of free and premium tools out there to help guide your strategy. We’re going to cover some of our favourites, so you can start playing around with data and build the bones of your content plan.
“Data-powered content - because research is less work than guesswork.”
“There are 3.5 billion Google searches every day, and 20% of those have never been seen before. They’re like a direct line to people’s thoughts…”
But who is going to run your content strategy? Does anyone in your team fit the bill? As of 2020, the most in-demand hard skills of a content marketer include:
- Social media
- Email marketing
It’s a versatile skill set, and not all businesses can afford to hire an in-house content marketing specialist. If that sounds like you, consider outsourcing your strategy to a content marketing agency.
2. How to ideate the strategy
Now that your content marketing toolbox is full and you know who is going to put your strategy into action, it’s time to build out the flesh of your campaign. In other words, what is the content of your content marketing plan?
This step is essential. Without it, you’ll find yourself staring at a blank screen and a blinking cursor. Content ideation is all about making sure you’re never short of topics, and that your content plan encourages long-term SEO value through topics your audience is genuinely interested in.
“Forget the lightbulb moment.”
So, how do you do it? First of all, you ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What are my goals?
Then, we can create a plan using the tools we mentioned in the first step.
1. Who is my audience?
Your target audience is the group of people most likely to consume your content. That means everything from your topics to your tone-of-voice needs to resonate with them. An estimated $37 million is wasted in ads that don’t engage their target audience, so knowing who you’re speaking to is key.
Develop audience personas that best define your customers, starting with 1, 2 or 3 personas. You’ll want to cover the obvious demographics, such as:
However, you should go a little deeper than that. Why? According to demographics alone, you’d find yourself applying the same marketing to Ozzy Osbourne and Prince Charles. Don’t forget to also analyse:
2. What are my goals?
A single piece of content that ranks for high-value terms, generates social shares and creates revenue is a unicorn. In all honesty, if you’re going after everything at once, you’re going after nothing. It’s very rare that one blog takes a reader all the way from the awareness through to the conversion stage, so assign one job to each piece of content.
According to 2020 research from the Content Marketing Institute, B2B marketers achieved the following goals via their content last year:
- Create brand awareness
- Educate audience
- Build trust and credibility
- Generate leads
- Nurture audience
- Build loyalty with existing customers
- Drive event attendance
- Generate sales/revenue
- Build a subscribed audience
- Support the launch of a new product
Use this list for inspiration and apply frameworks (such as SMART) to get specific with your goals.
“Content marketing goals must match a meaningful business goal.”
3. Ideate the strategy
Now it’s time to explore ideas and decide what your content marketing strategy will look like. One effective way of doing this is to identify trending, shareable topics in your niche. To do this, use the tools we mentioned above (Semrush, HubSpot, BuzzSumo, AnswerThePublic and Google Trends).
Input the keywords related to your brand or industry and these tools will spit out existing high-performing articles and trending search terms. Use these for inspiration and begin generating your own content topics.
For more sources of inspo, head to Reddit and Quora and learn the questions people are asking – then answer them in your blog posts, videos, social media updates, etc. Check out relevant industry news, too.
Your strategy needs to be a mix of current topics alongside some ever-green content. At this point, just jot down 10-15 topics grouped under around 3 or 4 “content pillars”. A content pillar is just a fancy way of saying a theme or category, under which multiple pieces can be grouped. For example, if you own an ethical makeup brand, your content pillars might be:
- Skincare ingredients that are kind to the planet
- Choosing the right ethical foundation for your skin type (How to look after your skin in your 30’s (or whichever age group describes your primary target audience)
Below each of these three pillars, you would then go onto write blogs, eBooks, social media posts, emails, etc. to explore sub-topics in more detail. We’ll get to the actual calendar and identifying content types based on channel very soon.
3. Identifying content types based on channel
You know what you want to talk about, but who are you going to talk to? The unique beauty of content marketing is that it lets marketers have conversations with consumers, rather than talking directly at them, like with most traditional channels.
Since you’ve already worked through your audience personas and objectives, you’ll already have a sense of where your potential customers are hanging out, and how you want to reach them.
Also consider where you currently have a strong online presence. Do you have an engaged email list, or do your Instagram posts usually land? Check out metrics on each live marketing channel you use right now to see what’s working. These are the channels you should build on.
Not sure? Head to Google Analytics and check out your acquisition data. You can also use BuzzSumo’s Content Analysis tool. Punch in your website’s domain and see which type of content gets the most shares and where – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
Narrow down where you’ll be sharing your content. Then, decide which content types you’ll be focusing on. As always, data is your best friend! Look inwards at what has worked for you in the past, as well as what’s working for your competitors.
Here are some popular content forms that you can pick n mix for your own business’ strategy:
4. Curate your content calendar
At this point, you’ve probably got a bunch of messy notes from brainstorming sessions. This is a good thing! Because it’s time to put it all together with a clear content marketing calendar.
There is a selection of tools you could use to plan out your content calendar. If you don’t have much content, your Google Calendar or Google Sheets (with colour coding) should suffice. However, if you have more than one person on your team and want to enjoy a better degree of organisation, explore some of the following tools:
Otherwise, look out for free content calendar templates online and personalise them to create your own. HubSpot has some good free calendar templates.
The first step to putting your content calendar together is to decide how often you’ll publish something. Do you want to publish once a week, twice a week, or less or more than that? CoSchedule recommends only publishing twice a month if you’re a beginner, but you can decide what works best for your brand. Later on, tweak the schedule to better suit your business if necessary.
You can decide how you want to group your campaigns. One easy way is to group them by the content pillars you defined earlier. Focusing on one pillar per month keeps things pretty straightforward, and means we can start with a non-intimidating three-month strategy.
Then, it’s simply a case of slotting your topic ideas into your calendar. Remember to use a colour coding system so you can identify the goal and funnel stage of each piece: is it there for awareness, informational or conversion purposes?
In addition, include the following key info:
- Date of publication
- Time of publication
- Any visual assets
It’s also handy to set up a place where you’ll measure the results of each piece. Ongoing feedback such as audience engagement will help to shape your ongoing content marketing strategies.
Creating a content calendar might feel like a lot of work, but once you have one, you’ll wonder how you ever got through without it! We love it because:
- It keeps you and the team organised
- You can schedule content ahead of time, meaning if you take a holiday, your audience won’t be met with radio silence
- Tracking success provides a better foundation for future content strategies
- Strategy is always more successful than guesswork
- It prevents redundant and repetitive content
- You can showcase a consistent voice and regular messaging
- It’s great for SEO
“In general the further ahead you plan your digital content publishing the better placed you are to produce a consistent flow of content that builds your brand’s perceived expertise in your chosen subject areas.”
5. Measuring the success of your content strategy
One of the great accomplishments of digital marketing is that just about everything is measurable. Despite that, we see so many businesses putting their all into creating and releasing content, but neglecting to check up on its performance.
Analysing what works is essential, so don’t skip this step! It helps you to shape all future content marketing strategies so your business can continue to grow.
This is where you look back to your goals and assess if you were effective in reaching them. Did you make more sales? Build your email list? Generate enquiries? If the words “data” and “analysis” fill you with dread, we’re going to list some ways to measure the success of your content strategy that even beginner analysts can take onboard.
“If you’re not measuring, you’re not marketing.”
To get started, you’ll need (another) collaborative tool that everyone on the team can access, such as Google Sheets or Notion. Define your goals and list some metrics associated with them. For example:
- We want to generate more leads. We will track eBook downloads, form completions, blog subscribers and email subscribers.
- We want to create brand awareness. We will track website traffic, social media follows, social media comments and engagement, mentions, downloads and referral links.
There are a plethora of tools available for measuring performance, but keep in mind that you should place your focus on the analytics that matter most to your goals. We’re going to cover some of our favourite, easy-to-use tools.
Social media platform built-in analytics
Need a helping hand with your content strategy?
If building your own content marketing strategy still seems a little overwhelming, or you’re simply too busy making your business amazing to commit to one, reach out to Abstract Digital.
We strategise, create and optimise, for a content marketing plan that’s aligned with your business’ goals and is proven to generate more leads than outbound marketing.